No Such Thing as Victimless Porn

This week, Catholic Exchange is highlighting “The Pornography Problem.” Yesterday, we ran a review of “Out of the Darkness,” a documentary about “the adult industry.” Today, check out related pieces It’s Not Erotic Art, It’s Child Abuse,    The Pornography Pandemic, and Rated R — For “Repulsive.”

“Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” – GK Chesterton

I remember blushing when asked to help produce Out of the Darkness, our newly released documentary on pornography. After all, pornography is an uncomfortable topic and not easily addressed in polite company. But I realized that my very discomfort was the best argument for signing on. As the editing progressed and the film started to take shape, my eyes were opened to both the size and nature of the problem, and I came to see the dangers of pornography on both the cultural and individual levels.

Most people simply accept pornography (and its more mainstream variants) as unavoidable and harmless. After all, what’s the problem with looking at nude photos and graphic videos? No one gets hurt, performers use their free will to exercise free expression, consumers satisfy their urges, and life hums along. My experience producing Out of the Darkness has lead me to realize that accepting pornography as a harmless and private choice is naive at best, destructive at worst. I’ve also realized that pornography has been encroaching on our lives and influencing our popular culture for years, and to unprecedented degrees. Advertisements, Hollywood blockbusters, and entertainment ranging from sit-coms to dramas continue to push the envelope in terms of sexual content, and the resulting encroachment reaches larger and younger audiences each day.

 

We at Anteroom Pictures don’t pretend that sexual sins are new, or particularly unique to our time and place. Lust is one of the seven deadly sins, after all. But the porn industry, which gained acceptance as a cultural force in the second half of the twentieth century, is a completely different animal, and the pornography fallout is the reason our documentary is so timely and relevant.

Currently, the porn industry makes more money than Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL combined, and what do we get for that money? A litany of well-documented problems, including failed relationships, addiction, depression, isolation, impotence, and an STD epidemic.

Many experts, including Dr. Judith Reisman (featured in Out of the Darkness) find a direct, cause-effect relationship between pornography and the disordered sexual conduct and psychological/emotional suffering rampant today. They argue there is a clear correlation between increased production and accessibility to pornography and the cultural fallout itemized above.

My work on Out of the Darkness made me realize that pornography is a silent epidemic, featuring countless victims. It’s a growing problem whose scope can make one lose hope. That flirtation with despair is itself a problem. The loss of hope can convince us that it’s either fruitless to resist, or that only a massive, systemic solution will suffice. But focusing too much on the cultural fight can lead us to stop fighting on the individual level. Dehumanizing the problem dehumanizes the solution.

That’s why we focused the Out of the Darkness lens on the personal stories of those whose lives have been affected and seriously altered by pornography. Without diminishing the cultural consequences, we went beyond the statistics and presented an honest and heartbreaking look at pornography through the eyes of the individual soul. These incredible individuals show us that healing from the trauma of pornography is possible, but only on the personal level, the very same place where the victimization occurs.

The stories we tell are often dark and disturbing. It’s heartbreaking to hear Shelley Lubben speak about the personal trauma she experienced in pornography. We sit captivated as Dr. Judith Reisman documents the deviancy behind Alfred Kinsey’s sex “science,” and how it inspired Hugh Hefner’s attack on traditional sexual morality. We see the dreary fruits of pornography use when Mark Houck admits to the loneliness and despair caused by his pornography addiction. And Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons’ clinical look at what pornography has done to children, marriages, and the broader culture presents an unmistakably bleak picture.

But like all stories worth telling, tales that begin in darkness do not have to end there. At the end of the day, Out of the Darkness is a love story, and as such, the turning point for each of these personalities was an overwhelming encounter with God’s love and mercy. Pornography seeks to destroy innocence, and certainly Mark and Shelley lost theirs at nine and eleven years old. Even Dr. Reisman’s daughter was victimized at the age of ten. In spite of those early traumas, each of these flawed human beings responded to the divine invitation to healing in a truly inspiring and extraordinary way.

Out of the Darkness does not provide a roadmap or solution to the overall problem. How could it? But stories, not statistics, move people, so we presented these stories to move hearts, convince minds, and present an alternative to sexual exploitation. Out doc tells the stories of normal, everyday people who struggle daily, just like you and me, to find their way to the light. How many people do you know who long for such a message?

Clearly pornography is a problem of sin and struggle, but the temptation and effects of pornography can be overcome. As such, Out of the Darkness is a film of hope. It presents the human heart in conflict and torment, but hungry for God’s inexhaustible love. Once out of its shadow we can lay claim to our individual dignity and fulfill our destiny as beings created in the image and likeness of a loving God.

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